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I’m sorry, I should have kept on walking. None of this would have happened. But something about the shop window, maybe it was the name—Horn and Ivory, Curio Shop—written in black on the frosted window, maybe it was the shelf of items behind it—floating just out of vision, obscure and tantalizing. I was mesmerized. Maybe I couldn’t have walked on past. I don’t know.
There was no tinkling bell as I entered, no electronic chime. No sound at all. Even my footsteps on the hardwood floor were muted as I walked up and down the aisles of shelves crowded with all sorts of junk. There seemed to be no order to the items. Gilt picture frames next to broken umbrellas, leather-bound books leaning against rusted metal tins. I picked up a small crystal globe that seemed to give off a bluish glow from within and turned it over in my hands, trying to see what was causing the shine.
“Moonlight.” An old woman’s voice broke the eerie silence of the shop. From what I had dismissed as a pile of yellowed shawls, a bag of wrinkles disguised as a face emerged. She smiled at me, revealing all of her six teeth.
“I’m sorry?” I said.
“It’s a moon orb.” She shuffled over to me, gently took the sphere from my hand, and placed it back onto the shelf. “But that’s not for you, is it?”
“I guess not.” I was bewildered.
“No, not enough for you. You seek inspiration, but moonlight is only for wolves and madmen.” She began to move through the aisles, and I instinctively followed. “Ah! Here!” She stopped abruptly and here gnarled hand shot out and grabbed a tangled mess of string from the nearby shelf. Before I could comment, she thrust it at my chest.
I took it without really thinking and held it before me. It was a dreamcatcher, a couple of feathers and small clear stones hanging from its frame. Its strands were smooth to the touch—like silk, but rougher—and they seemed to vibrate under my fingertips.
“Two dollars.” I had almost forgot the old woman was there. “Hang it over your bed and you’ll remember more of your dreams than ever before. Help you write.”
“How did you…”
The old woman just winked at me.
Well, I bought the thing, of course. I had been struggling for weeks with my latest book, and you know what they say about ports and storms. I was more desperate than I care to admit. I took the dreamcatcher home, nailed it to the wall above my headboard, and spent the rest of the day tapping out words on my keyboard and then immediately deleting them.
It started out simple and innocently enough. As I slept that night, I had a dream about donuts. Look, don’t get all Freud on me, sometimes a pastry is just a pastry. When I woke up, I went immediately to my computer and typed up a lovingly detailed breakfast scene that set my mind aflame with places that I could take my characters. I must have been in that chair for quite some time; I had forgotten to eat until I was suddenly struck with hunger. A craving. For donuts. I didn’t think the connection was significant at the time. I figured my appetite for donuts was what had triggered the dream. What would you have thought?
I didn’t start to figure it out until I found a walrus in my bathtub.
The whole week, my dreams had been getting bigger and more bizarre. And the whole week, I was writing like a pro again. I barely registered the fact that my mother called me just to quote Shakespeare, that some old childhood toys appeared in my living room. But the walrus was a wake-up call, so to speak. It took Animal Control three hours to get the bellowing beast downstairs and into a truck to be taken to the zoo. And I’m not entirely sure how I managed to explain the whole thing to them. I think one of them was a fan of my novels, luckily.
I took the dreamcatcher down. It didn’t help. It was back up on the wall the next morning and that day I saw George Washington on the subway.
I tried not sleeping for a while, but it’s impossible to stay awake forever, no matter how many caffeine pills you pop. And when I crashed, my dreams got weirder. I think that was the night I conjured up the war between the cast of Fame and the pencil people. That whole conflict is still raging over half of Central Park, isn’t it?
I’m telling you this because, well, I have to tell someone. Someone has to know I’m to blame for the packs of clockwork wolves roaming the streets. It’s my fault that its constantly raining blood now. I bear the responsibility for the screaming flames. I tried to find that shop and return this thing to make it all stop, but that whole city block was turned into sugar-spun buildings and was eaten by that giant blue baby.
I’m so sorry.